Sunday Sermon for March 12, 2017, the Second Sunday of Lent, Year A

Readings: Gen 12:1-4a; 2 Tim 1:8b-10; Mt 17:1-9

In the first reading today we hear the Lord calling Abram. Our Father in Faith was asked to do something extremely difficult: to leave what he knew and to go to a place that would be shown to him. In other words, he had no idea where he was going or what might happen along the way. He had some promises that had been made to him by the Lord, but at this point he did not have any background for him to trust in what he was hearing. Having made an act of faith in God, Abram went as he was directed and allowed the Lord to lead him.

Of course, we know from the story of Abraham that this was not the only extraordinary act of faith that was required of him. In fact, in some ways, this was one of the easier ones. Faith, like other virtues, grows only when it is tested. So, we can say that at this point in his life, Abram made an heroic act of faith and left his homeland; later in his life he would make other heroic acts of faith that were greater than this one, but he was able to make those acts because his faith in God had grown over time.

In the Gospel we hear about our Lord’s Transfiguration. Peter had recently made an act of faith that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God. Now Peter, along with James and John, were privileged to see the glory of the Lord revealed in this vision with Moses and Elijah. Undoubtedly, this did a great deal to boost the faith of these three Apostles, but they were asked by our Lord to remain silent until after the resurrection. I would assume that they were probably left wondering about what they had seen and heard after the Transfiguration, but they were even more baffled by the statement about the Son of Man rising from the dead.

Like Abram, they were being asked to follow a path that would be shown to them. There was this promise of resurrection, but because there was no understanding on their part, they were still walking in the dark. They had to make an act of faith in what they heard and saw, but they had to keep all of these questions in their own hearts and minds because they were obedient to our Lord’s request for silence on the matter.

Like Abraham, these men would be asked to make even greater acts of faith in the future, but at the time this would have required something heroic of them. I think we can assume that this event was huge for these chosen disciples, but as Peter’s faith matured, he could reflect back and state that we have something even more reliable: the revealed Word of God contained in the Scriptures.

This becomes important for us because it is now our turn to make some acts of faith and to walk along a path that we do not know. As members of Jesus Christ, we are all children of Abraham and heirs to the promises that were made to him and heirs, also, to the promises made to our Lord. However, like Abraham and the Apostles, the path to our inheritance is one that will require some heroic acts of faith and obedience. As it was with them, so it will be for us: these virtues will only grow by being tested.

We have not seen our Lord in His Transfigured glory, but we do have Him truly present in the Holy Eucharist. We have the privilege of having the fullness of truth passed on to us. Christian people of past times have had to make heroic acts of faith to believe those things that have been given to us as a matter of course in learning the Catechism. We, too, have to make an act of faith in each of the doctrines of the Church, but the heroic part is putting our faith into practice.

When we look at the second reading today, we are told that we have been saved and called to holiness. It requires faith to believe that we are saved by the death and resurrection of our Lord, but it requires a more concrete act to accept that we are called to be holy. This is the path upon which we must walk. It is far more difficult than just making an act of faith in an objective truth, e.g., we are saved by Jesus. To grow in holiness we will have to go where we are led, allowing God to be in control. We have the Scriptures, the promises, the call, and the example of the Saints; now we have to make an heroic act to walk in faith and obedience.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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